Last week, the U.S. Senate approved Dr. William Beach as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Beach’s responsibilities will include, but not be limited to, overseeing the monthly jobs report, data on unions and workplace injuries, as well as the gathering and analyzing information that affects the average person every day – inflation, price indexes, pay, and more.
Beach will be a fantastic commissioner not only because of his decades of experience as a top economist and his vast experience managing people, but also because of the personal characteristics he brings to the job.
Regretfully, two Democratic senators have chosen to attack Beach’s character and professionalism. Their claims don’t match the man who has mentored and employed me, did a reading at my wedding, and invited me to co-author a book.
Dem Senators mischaracterize Beach
According to Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Beach is a shill for the Koch brothers, has few academic credentials, and is generally unqualified for the BLS position.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Beach is a man of the highest integrity who tried to show that when Whitehouse questioned him about a climate change report. Rather than let Beach explain the nuances of the report and the review process behind it, Whitehouse interrupted Beach to the point where his entire line of questioning – and Beach’s efforts to answer the questions – was useless to the viewing public.
Beach’s efforts to explain the nuances of the climate change report are part and parcel of who he is as a person and as a leader. As I explained in 2014 when I endorsed him for Congressional Budget Office director – a position for which he was considered but not nominated – Beach’s personal philosophies include aiming for solutions instead of ideologies. He is a philosophical conservative, to be certain, but this hasn’t stopped him from endorsing bipartisan solutions to the nation’s biggest challenges.
Beach’s credentials also include being a fantastic manager of people. He oversaw dozens of researchers at the renowned Mercatus Center, and prior to that he founded the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation. In learning from him as a new arrival in Washington, D.C., and later working for him as a contractor, I saw him excel at guiding his staff and proteges to greater heights. His high standards for results are balanced with never compromising the standards of charity to which he holds himself and through which many young people have found their personal and professional footing.
Finally, the American people frequently claim that they want ethical leaders who are of good character and judgment. Beach’s character and ethics shine through his public service and volunteering. He was the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus at his parish, counts donated money on Sundays, and sponsors RCIA candidates who are entering the Roman Catholic Church. Some years ago, he dedicated many of his Saturdays to helping a man with social anxiety disorders develop new skills and learn how to function while grocery shopping and in social settings.
Beach did all of this without any personal gain. This is exactly the kind of leader we should want leading public servants.
Conservative leaders endorse Beach
Ed Corrigan, a former longtime Hill staffer, former Heritage Foundation vice president for policy promotion, and current executive director of the Conservative Partnerships Institute, endorsed Beach in his new position. “What makes Bill special is not just his passion for data and analysis, but his desire and ability to use information to advance policies that make people’s lives better,” Corrigan told PJ Media. “As head of the Center for Data Analysis, Bill led a peer review process for policy analysis to ensure the data was sound.”
Ryan Ellis, president of the Center for a Free Economy, likewise praised Beach’s work. “When I think of Bill, I think of the fact that he started The Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation,” Ellis told PJ Media. “It was the first serious attempt to create a serious, peer-reviewed dynamic analysis alternative to Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office. We never had that before. If you look now at things like what the Tax Foundation does with its tax model, that credibility that they have, because the mainstream media accepts their analysis as credible – that only happened because of people like Bill Beach.”
According to Ellis, Beach “was mocked by the press as unserious – but, meanwhile, what he was doing was doing the peer-review work of making the work better and more credible. Now we have The Tax Foundation and within JCT and CBO – and, for a while, at Treasury – internal development of dynamic modeling scores, even within those bastions of static scoring.”
Then he goes to the Senate Budget Committee. He becomes the best expert in the U.S. Congress – possibly in the entire government – on moving towards a more robust, data-driven CBO and JCT that takes into account scoring methodologies beyond the static 1970s models that they used.
He works with [Congress’ leaders] in a collaborative and academic way, with career staff at CBO and JCT who respect him, to develop a really good internal reordering of how scoring is supposed to happen. We are starting to see that big battleship turn now at JCT and CBO.
Beach’s qualifications are perfect for BLS, an agency that has struggled in key areas. Just Facts President James Agresti – whose organization is a former client of mine – told me, “I regularly access data from a wide range of federal agencies, and I find the BLS datasets are among the most poorly organized and least accessible.”
According to Ellis, BLS should consider making two significant changes to its important monthly jobs analyses. “Everyone immediately has to turn to an outside person to understand what the data means,” he told PJ Media. “Everyone always uses the headline one – the official unemployment rate. But there is a broader definition of unemployment. Why isn’t BLS saying that, looking at how they measure unemployment in a more comprehensive fashion?”
Additionally, Ellis said, “The labor force participation rate is often misunderstood. Maybe BLS should look at the prime age of working-age people instead of the entire population. Maybe Bill can do a data emphasis job at BLS. They are still letting others read the tea leaves.”